30 Iowa Conference titles
WAVERLY—Quarterback Nate Snead (sophomore, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) passed for four touchdowns and ran for another—and the Central College football team needed them all Saturday, turning back a fierce challenge from preseason Iowa Conference favorite Wartburg College for a 41-33 victory, clinching an outright championship.
The win completes a 10-0 season for the Dutch, their 17th perfect regular season. Central is also assured of its 20th NCAA Division III playoff. Central, which has a bye week next week, completes the conference schedule with an 8-0 mark. It’s a record 30th league title for the Dutch.
It didn’t come easily. Defense was a scarce commodity as the high-powered offenses combined for 880 yards total offense—and just two punts. But Central scored on each of its first-half possessions for a 20-6 lead at intermission. The Dutch built a 27-6 lead early after scoring on the first possession of the third quarter, then held off an aggressive Wartburg aerial assault.
Central’s Snead completed 18 of 21 passes for 202 yards without an interception. He also rushed for 82 yards on 18 carries, picking up several crucial first downs.
“I have total faith in our offensive line,” Snead said. “I know they’re going to get me a hole, and usually it’s a big one.”
Wartburg (5-4 overall, 4-3 conference) outgained Central 461 yards to 419. The Dutch passed for 202 yards and ran for 217.
Wartburg made a determined effort to stop running back David Zachary (senior, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) in the first half and he was limited to just 16 yards on eight carries, but he finished strong, gaining 147 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts overall.
Wide receiver Jeremy Snead (sophomore, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) had six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, Alex Dittmer (senior, Lowden, North Cedar HS) had five catches for 44 yards, tight end Jordan Leuschen (junior, Decorah) had four receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns and tight end Cody Thie (junior, Ottumwa) had two catches for five yards and a score.
Meanwhile, Wartburg quarterback Nick Yordi kept the heat on, connecting on 28-of-38 for 334 yards and a touchdown. He threw no interceptions and was sacked just once, although he did lose the ball on an errant shotgun snap in the third quarter, stifling a Wartburg drive and setting up a Central score.
“It was a great game between two quality football teams,” said coach Jeff McMartin. “Neither team quit. We knew we’d be challenged today and I was very proud of how our guys kept playing hard and did the things we had to do to win the football game.”
With Wartburg’s offense in high gear, the Dutch were dependent on their offense, but McMartin said his club didn’t feel pressure to respond.
“You have to look at it like we’re just going to work hard to execute the next play, and not think about what just happened,” he said. “If you’re just focused on doing the best you can for that play, it takes the pressure off. The players did a great job of that.”
With the running game limited in the first half, the Dutch were forced to go to the air, and did so smoothly.
“Nate (Snead) was 13-for-14 in the first half,” McMartin said. “You can’t get much better than that. And our receivers made some great plays. Jordan Leuschen made a great finger-tip catch in the end zone.”
Linebackers Zach Van Arkel (senior, Malcom, Grinnell HS) and Greg Best (junior, Clive, Valley HS) each made seven tackles. Van Arkel also recovered Wartburg’s lone fumble while Best made 2.5 tackles for loss. Defensive back Jake Petersen (sophomore, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) and linebacker Ryan Steinkamp (sophomore, Carroll, Kuemper Catholic HS) each had six tackles.
“It’s a great honor to be conference champions,” McMartin said. “Week in, week out, you’ve got to come to play in this league. We got everybody’s best shot.”
Central awaits word regarding its seed and opponent in the 32-team NCAA Division III playoff field which will be announced Sunday, Nov. 15. First-round games will be played Saturday, Nov. 21. Earlier in the week Central was ranked No. 4 in the West Region.